Tas Kabab

Another dish from my childhood, Tas Kabab, is a wonderful Persian stew that I forgot about as I grew up and went about my life. My mother used to make it a lot and we loved it. I’m not sure if she learned it from my grandmother, but I don’t remember grandma making it in this version. It could very well be my mother’s interpretation. There are various recipes out there for Tas Kabab, with at least one that I would like to try and make one day, but I’ve decided to start with Mom’s recipe as it brings good memories.

I made it last week for my family and the feedback was so great that I’m making it again today.

And it was very easy to make, too. So, I guess we are adding a new dish to our home cooking repertoire.

4 tbs oil
2 large onions, peeled
4 large potatoes, peeled
8 skinless chicken thighs, bone in
5 medium tomatoes
4 Omani limes
3tsp turmeric
Black pepper

Slice the onions, the potatoes and the tomatoes and place each one of them in a separate dish.

Heat the oil in a large pot. Arrange some of the onions at the bottom of the pot in one layer. Arrange a layer of the potatoes on top of the onion. Try to use as much of the potatoes as you can.

Place the Omani limes in a small Ziploc bag. Close the bag and smash the limes until coarsely smashed. Sprinkle half the amount on the potatoes in the pot.

Sprinkle the potatoes with 1 tsp turmeric, some salt and some black pepper.

Place the chicken thighs in a large bowl. Sprinkle 2 tsp turmeric, salt and pepper and rub it in well.

Arrange the thighs as the next layer in the pot.

Top with the rest of the onions, the sliced tomatoes and the rest of Omani lime.

Cover the pot, lower the heat to medium low and cook for 45 minutes. Then turn the chicken upside down, cover the pot and cook for 45 more minutes.

Serve with some good bread to dip in the sauce and enjoy.

Beef and String Bean Stew

The following dish is one of the dishes I grew up on. Both my Kurdish grandma (my mother’s side of the family) and my Persian aunts (my father’s side of the family) used to make this stew. They each had their own methods and they used different spices, so the dish tasted a little different, but the result was always great. My mother used to make this stew a lot at home, usually substituting chicken or turkey for the beef. Again, the end product came out tasting different, but still always delicious.

If you chose to substitute the chicken or turkey for beef, you do not need to cook the meat separately. Put all the ingredients in the pot at the same time, bring to a boil, lower the heat and cook for an hour.

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, diced
3 lb beef shanks, bones removed
2 lb fresh green beans
2 tbs tomato paste
3 cups fresh or canned pureed tomatoes
4 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 tsp cinnamon (optional)
½ tsp turmeric (optional)

In a large pot heat the oil on high heat. Add the onion and sauté until onion is translucent.

Cut the meat into 2 inch cubes and add to the pot. Seal the meat stirring it occasionally. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook for 30 minutes.

Trim the ends of the string beans and cut them in half. Add to the pot together with the pureed tomatoes, tomato paste, garlic, and the spices. Stir well.

Cover the pot and cook for an hour and a half.

Every once in a while, stir the contents of the pot and make sure the stew has some liquid to cook in (not a lot). Add a little water if needed, so the stew doesn’t get burned.

Serve over white rice or mashed potatoes, or just dip some good bread in the sauce and enjoy!

Stuffed Vegetables Kurdish Style

Last week I felt a huge urge to make one of my belated grandma’s dishes – stuffed vegetables Kurdish style. My beloved grandma passed away 3 years ago, and I’ve been missing her ever since. Sometimes I feel she comes to visit me. I can really feel her presence near me. And then I usually end up cooking one of her amazing dishes that I miss so much, which is what happened last week.

However, this time, things got really weird. As I was working on preparing the stuffed vegetables with my daughter, my phone kept ringing with the notification ring that I have for our cousins’ group on WhatsApp. I didn’t look to see what it was about because I was busy cooking and my hands had food on them. After I put the pot on the stove to cook, I went back to the phone to catch up on the conversation, and the first text that came up was from my sister and read “I’m so in the mood for grandma’s stuffed vegetables”. I was stunned!!! The following texts from my cousins were in the same spirit, and they all lamented the yummy food they miss, and how they all missed grandma. I immediately took a picture of my stuffed veggies and posted it in the group. The feeling that maybe grandma was trying to communicate with us didn’t leave me for days…

Anyway, last week, making the stuffed vegetables, I only stuffed the vegetables I already had at home. I skipped the eggplants and the grape leaves from grandma’s original dish. Although they add tons of flavor and a gorgeous look to the dish, I didn’t feel like going food shopping.

For this reason, I’m not using the name grandma used. The combination of vegetables doesn’t really matter, but I feel that I would like to use the real name when I make the full rich version of my grandma’s amazing recipe.

As was expected, the stuffed veggies came out delicious, but not as delicious as when grandma made them.

Hope you get inspired and try to cook this dish yourselves.

4 medium tomatoes
2 large onion, peeled
8 small courgettes for stuffing (light skin version of zucchini)

For the filling:
1 small onion
2 tbs oil
2 cups rice
½ lb ground beef
I small tomato, diced
½  cup thinly chopped celery
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons tomato paste
¼  cup oil
½  teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon citric acid
salt, pepper

Preparing the vegetables:
Trim the stems off the courgettes. Using a small teaspoon or a corer, scoop out the flash, leaving a wall ¼ inch thick. Keep the extracted vegetables flash in a separate bowl to use in another dish.

Cut the top of the tomatoes, and using a spoon, scoop out the seeds and the inner flash. Leave the flash of the outside wall intact. Keep the extracted flash in a separate bowl to use in another dish.

Cut the top and bottom of the large, peeled onions. Make a cut along the length of the onion all the way to the center. Place the onions in a pot with boiling water for a few minutes, until the onions soften, and the layers start separating. Remove the onions from the water and set to cool. Pull apart the layers into individual leaves.

Preparing the filling:
Chop the medium onion thinly. Sauté in a saucepan with two tablespoons oil, until golden brown. Transfer the onion to a large bowl. Add the rice, meat, celery, tomato, tomato paste, garlic, parsley, oil and spices. Mix everything well. The filling should be very salty and sour. The flavors dissipate and balance during the cooking process.

Stuff the emptied courgettes and tomatoes with the filling, about three quarters of the capacity, to leave room for the rice to swell. Arrange the courgettes tightly on their side in a large saucepan. The tomatoes should be standing with the opening facing up.
Fill each layer of the onions with a heaping tablespoon of the filling and wrap the onion around it loosely to allow the rice some room to swell. Place tightly in the saucepan, with the opening facing down, to prevent the onions from opening while cooking.

Place a plate, face down, on top of the vegetables.
Fill the pot with water, just enough to almost cover the vegetables and cover the pot with a lid. The vegetables themselves will extract more liquid during the cooking process.

Bring the pot to a boil, lower the heat and let cook covered on low heat until most of the liquid is gone, and there is a small amount of thick sauce remaining on the bottom of the saucepan.

Another option is to bring the pot to a boil and then transfer it to a 275 F preheated oven, and bake covered for 3 hours. Whichever cooking method you choose, check the pot a couple of times, to make sure there is some liquid in the pot. If there is no liquid left and the rice is not yet fully cooked, add a little bit of water, cover and keep cooking.

My Grandmother’s Cheek Meat Stew

Sephardic (Middle Eastern) Jews celebrate Rosh HaShanah a little differently than Ashkenazi (European) Jews. We have a whole Seder (ceremony) with different foods that correspond to wishes and blessings for the new year. One of the wishes is recited over the head of fish or meat (basically the cheek meat), to wish that we will be the head and not the tail, in shedding light, goodness, and wisdom upon the world.

Every year on the eve of the Jewish new year, my grandmother would cook her special stew, made from the cheek meat of a cow. It was delicious and special, and we only had it once a year, on Rosh HaShanah, so it gave us something to look forward to.

This year, I am very fortunate to have my parents here with us for the Holidays, and I asked my mother to recreate her mother’s cheek meat stew so we could have it at our Holiday table.

And since there was no written recipe or any approximate quantities to rely on, she kind of winged it. Luckily, it turned out very similar to the flavor we remembered, so we are both very happy. And we even wrote down what my mother did, so now we have a recipe. And I’m sharing it with you all. Enjoy!

By the way, I found prepackaged cheek meat at Walmart. It’s by ‘Rumba’, a brand that sells different cuts of meats that you wouldn’t find on the regular meat shelves. If you can’t find the meat in a store near you, you may be able to order it online.

Also, don’t get alarmed by the large amounts of meat. Part of the meat is fat and part of it is connective tissue. Over whole, the recipe feeds about 8-10 people. Of course, you can always buy only half the amount of meat and adjust the recipe accordingly.

7 lb cheek meat
1 large onion, sliced
6 dried bay leaves
1 tbs whole allspice seeds
½ tsp ground black pepper
½ tsp ground nutmeg

Cut the meat into large pieces (about 4 inch), and place in a medium size pot.

Add the onion and the spices and cook on medium-low heat, until the stew starts to boil, then lower the heat to low and cook covered for 2 and a half hours.

Adjust the seasoning as necessary.

The meat should be very tender, and it falls apart, so be careful when you remove it from the pot.

We like to cook the stew in advance. Once it gets to room temperature, we chill it in the fridge for a couple of hours, so we can easily remove most of the fat floating on top. Then, we either freeze it, or heat it up and serve immediately.


Apple Khoresh

Apple stew or Khoresh-e-sib in Persian, has a fun flavor. It has a gentle sweetness to it but it’s also sour. It has a flare of cinnamon and other spices, but none of them is dominant, so the result is a balanced, mild, but very interesting dish.

As in all Khoreshes, the dish is not about the meat. The meat is just one of the ingredients that help contribute to the combination of flavors and to the final result. For this reason, the amounts of meat in khoresh are less than you’ll find in other stews.

1/3 cup yellow split pea
3 tbs oil
1 large onion, chopped
1lb boneless chicken thighs (or beef, lamb), cut into thin strips
1 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
½ cinnamon
1 cup water
2 tbs lime juice
3 tbs brown sugar
½ tsp turmeric
5 tart apples, peeled and cored
2 tbs oil

In a small saucepan combine the split pea with 2 cups water and cook for 20 minutes. Drain and set aside.

In a medium pot, heat the oil and sauté the onion until translucent. Add the chicken and sauté for 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the salt, pepper, and cinnamon.

Add 1 cup water, lime juice, sugar, and turmeric. Simmer for 15 minutes over low heat.

Cut each apple into 8 wedges. Heat two tbs oil in a skillet and fry the apples, turning them until they are golden brown on all sides.

Preheat oven to 350F.

In an ovenproof dish place the cooked chicken. Pour the split pea on top and arrange the apples on top of the peas. Cover and bake for 30 minutes.

Serve over white basmati rice.

Khoresh Sabzi

Khoresh Sabzi, which means fresh herb stew in Persian, is one of the staple dishes in Persian cuisine. You will probably find this dish in every Persian restaurant. The unique flavor of this wonderful dish comes from the large amount of various greens and Omani lime which is a prevalent ingredient in Persian cuisine. Omani lime, also known as dried lime, can be found in Middle Eastern stores and online.

Khoresh sabzi represents the kind of food I consider perfect in every way. Besides the fact that it reminds me of my childhood and my father’s side of our family, it is delicious with very rich and unique flavors, and is satisfying in a way that only slow cooking food can satisfy. It is also super healthy and guilt free, so you can enjoy it anytime, even when on a diet.

1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
6 tbs oil
2 lb beef shank or chuck roast, or boneless chicken thighs, cut into 2 inch pieces
6 cups water or broth
1 cup red kidney beans, soaked in water for 5 hours
5 Omani (dried) limes, crushed coarsely and seeded
½ tsp ground turmeric
Salt, Black pepper
4 cups parsley finely chopped
4 cups cilantro finely chopped
2 cups scallions finely chopped
2 cups leek (green part), chopped
1 cup celery leaves and stem chopped
1 cup dill finely chopped
Juice from one lemon (optional)

Place the beans in a pressure cooker and cover with water. Cook according to instructions until the beans are barely soft. When cooked, drain the water and set the beans aside.

Heat 3 tbs oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until golden. Add the meat and brown it for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. Add the broth or water, the limes, the beans, turmeric, salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Cover the pot and cook for 45 minutes over medium heat.

In a separate pan, heat the remaining 3 tbs oil over medium heat, and sauté the vegetables for about 5 minutes. The greens should be wilted but still retain their bright green color. Add the greens to the pot with the meat. If you like the khoresh to have a pronounced sour tone, add the lemon juice, as well .

Cover and cook over medium low heat for 30 – 40 minutes longer, until the beans and the meat are cooked and are tender.

Serve in a soup bowl, together with white basmati rice.